On the heels of the successful Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) reauthorization campaign at the end of 2018, the American Library Association’s (ALA) policy leaders began conversations around long-term goals for federal funding for libraries during the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Seattle.
In fall 2018, ALA’s Washington Office engaged in a policy strategy retreat looking forward to the 116th Congress and the 2020 elections. Discussions addressed federal funding, improved broadband access, copyright, and other topics. The ALA Committee on Legislation (COL) then invited representatives from the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) to explore possibilities of increased funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Building on the policy retreat work and discussions at Midwinter, COL has created a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Task Force. This group of stakeholders will explore the short-term goal of increasing IMLS allocations an additional $17 million to fully fund the base allotment as specified in the MLSA and then focus on long-term funding strategies.
“Library legislation is complex and nuanced,” says Kent Oliver, director of Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library and COL member, who helped lead these conversations. “We are excited that this discussion will help identify the federal funding needs of a range of libraries while also developing realistic strategies that will work for all involved.”
The task force, which will be appointed by COL in the next few weeks, will develop collaborative approaches and focused tactics in advocating for future increases in IMLS funding. Reflecting the breadth and depth of LSTA and IMLS, the task force will be broadly representative of the library community.
The task force will consider the needs of all library types, including state libraries, and overarching national needs as well as the management requirements of IMLS. The first report from the group will be delivered to COL at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., in June.
“We want to continue to achieve increases and to build on our success over the last two years,” says Kathi Kromer, associate executive director of ALA’s Washington Office. “As ALA’s policy and government relations experts in Washington, we will work to create a responsible road map for the future of federal funding for libraries and continue to work closely with our champions on the Hill. Collaborating with a variety of stakeholders and ALA advocates nationwide, we can continue to make real progress and strengthen our work with legislative allies. We must continue to build these critical relationships and demonstrate the value of these federal investments.”